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Young-Eisendrath, P. (2007). Learning About Love Through the Therapeutic Action of Psychoanalysis. Psychoanal. Inq., 27(3):310-325.

(2007). Psychoanalytic Inquiry, 27(3):310-325

Learning About Love Through the Therapeutic Action of Psychoanalysis

Polly Young-Eisendrath, Ph.D.

From bitter searching of the heart

Quickened with passion and with pain

We rise to play a greater part.

from “Villanelle for Our Time,” Leonard Cohen, 2004

Psychoanalysis, our Western Science of Subjectivity, Has Shed light on the ways in which human love is laced with ambivalence—as well as wishes for dominance and submission, fears of abandonment and engulfment, struggles of attachment and separation, and fantasies of infantile dependence and idealized independence. But has psychoanalysis helped us to love any better? In this era of postmodern, multinational, commercially-driven images of romance and sexual desire, is psychoanalysis helping us become more capable of love? Yes, I would say that it is.

And yet, there is still a lot of confusion about human love, even among psychoanalysts. Love still gets conflated with attachment, passion, certain brain states, and positive mirroring. In everyday conversations, love is frequently confused with its near companions of romance, desire, idealization, admiration, and compassion.

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